Atlantic lionfish becoming epidemic

Lionfish invasion caused by humans

October 21, 2013

Marine biologists are working frantically to find ways of dealing with an infestation of lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean.

Lionfish are not native to the Atlantic Ocean. With no known predators, except human beings, they can wipe out 90 per cent of a reef. The blame for their arrival is to be squarely pinned on human shoulders.

Pet owners in Florida have reportedly been blamed for releasing the fish into unfamiliar waters. DNA evidence has traced all lionfish in the Atlantic back to between six to eight female lionfish, according to CNN.

“The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face,” said Graham Maddocks, president and founder of Ocean Support Foundation, which works with the government and research agencies to help reduce the lionfish population in Bermuda.

Lionfish were first recorded decades ago and their population has grown quickly. They produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every couple of days and are sexually mature by the time they are a year old. Today, you can find them throughout the Amazon, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and in the waters along North Carolina.

While the problem is only beginning to escalate, many in the marine preservation field are already concerned for the marine life that surrounds the lionfish.

Ecologist James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Science said that while this may not be the worst epidemic the Atlantic Ocean has faced, it does have the makings of a disaster. He said the lionfish has brought a “big change in biodiversity.”

“I don’t know if we can stop the lionfish invasion. This isn’t a battle we can win, we can only maintain,” Maddock said. “Human beings started this problem. It is our fault they are here. We have to take responsibility and try to fix or hope we can control it.”

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